Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to warm up to Novak's style, but once I did, I really enjoyed most of these stories. The first few felt a bit cliche, like he was trying too hard to be quirky, but eventually, the stories settled into an interesting rhythm. Some of them were short, some were long, but all felt like just the right length. Most of them I liked in general, but I definitely have favorites, and there were a few I didn't like at all or get. Luckily, you were quickly (usually) on to the next one, and there was a good chance I would like that one. I was listening to this one on audio in my car, so it was hard to take notes, but I went and found a print copy so I could at least make lists of the stories I did and didn't like.

My favorite:
Sophia (title of book comes from this story, incidentally)

A few of the stories were interconnected, though that wasn't obvious at first:
All You You Have to Do VVVV
Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 pm on Wednesday

Stories I Liked:
Short ones like Kindness Among Cakes & If You Love Something & Romance, Chapter One
No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg
The Something by John Grisham
The Girl Who Gave Great Advice
The Ambulance Driver
The Man Who Invented the Calendar
MONSTER: The Roller Coaster
Kellogg's (or: The Last Wholesome Fantasy of the Middle-School Boy)
Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle
Constructive Criticism
J.C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote

Stories I Either Didn't Like or Understand:
One of These Days, We Have to Do Something About Willie
Dark Matter
Walking on Eggshells (or: When I Loved Tony Robbins)
The Ghost of Mark Twain
Kate Moss

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was a Sweet Valley fan as a teenager, so I was looking forward to picking up this book and seeing where the girls and company had been over the last 10 years. Unfortunately, I was mostly disappointed.

I found this book to be cliche, with no depth to the characters. We're told they have changed, but when we don't see that change happen, it's just not believable. The over the top language and imagery, like bodies leaning with passion, made it laughably ridiculous. In addition to the plotting and character flaws, the constantly switching narrator made things hard to follow. It was one thing when it kept switching between Elizabeth and Jessica, noted by their location, but then suddenly we were hearing other people's thoughts and feelings, with no transition. If your narrator is an omniscient observer, that's one thing, but this wasn't that. This was just poor writing. The flashbacks were also a little frustrating, though less so than the narrator issue.

The characters also changed feelings too quickly. For the amount of rage Elizabeth claimed to have felt, it seemed like she forgave Jessica pretty easily. Not that she shouldn't, it just seemed too sudden of a change. Also, for someone so serious, her feelings about men changed really suddenly: from attraction to friends with benefits to just friends with Will, then from friends to lovers with Bruce. By the way, I HATE the word lovers. It's the 21st century. Pick a different word.

In addition to the previously mentioned writing issues, there also seemed to be a plot problem -- the timeline was all screwed up. Was the wedding only a week after the party? It seemed like it should be longer, but then at one point it referenced "the party a week ago." The resolution of conflict felt rushed and sudden as is, but then when compressed down into the space of a week, it was excessively unbelievable.

In the end, I think I figured out the primary source of the problems while listening to the author interview at the end of the audiobook. Francine Pascal says, "I am the god of Sweet Valley and I can make these characters do whatever I want." And that she wanted to shock people by having characters do things they'd never done before. It's because the author was throwing the characters around at her whim that they were so inconsistent and unbelievable.

I honestly would have a hard time recommending this to anyone other than the most diehard Sweet Valley fans.

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